Updated: Aug 7
More and more people are beginning to understand the importances of energy work and are incorporating more energetic healing practices into their lives. One of the easiest and most beneficial ways someone can work with energy is through smudging or herbal cleanses.
Smudging is an ancient practice of cleansing the energy through the burning of special herbs. Herbs contain energetic properties and can be used to clear the negative, stagnant, and unwanted energies that linger in either a space, object, or your own energetic body.
While smudging uses herbs, not all herbs are created equal.
The Environmental Issues of Smudging
Due to its background, most people smudge with traditional smudging herbs such as Palo Santo and White Sage. Originally you could only find these things at apothecaries and occult bookstores. Now thanks to the explosion of interest in the new age community, you can get smudging tools online and even at recognizable big name companies.
While it’s great that people are taking more interest in energy work, holistic wellness, and expanding their consciousness, it isn’t environmentally conscious to be using these herbs. Here are the environmental impacts of the two most common smudging tools:
White Sage– most commonly grown in California. Due to droughts, the plants are having a difficult time adapting. Overconsumption of white sage for commercial use, especially in the New Age community, has increased significantly within the last couple of years, which has started to threaten the existence of the plant.
Palo Santo– while Palo Santo is under government protection and the companies that do harvest it are monitored, Palo Santo has been over-exploited as a spiritual product. There have been many stories of illegally harvesting the wood, and the population of these trees has seriously declined within the last decade.
Palo Santo and Sage do have their place in smudging and spellwork, but I’m finding the reason these items are so popular is due to their marketability but also lack of education. There are so many other types of herbs out there that have the traditional history of being used in smudging and ritual work, but people are unaware of these plants.
Many people use these smudging methods because it’s available in stores and is easily accessible and convenient. Or they are simply unaware that there are other herbs that ancients have used to cleanse, purify, and bless their spaces.
There are many alternative herbs to Palo Santo and White Sage. These herbs provide a more EcoSpiritual method of smudging. These are common herbs that are native to many areas, not just certain areas in South America or the United States, and grow either wild or can be planted in a garden. Growing or collecting you own, also strengthens the connection of energy to the earth and heightens its magick. Making your own smudge sticks is spell work within itself, as you are putting your own energy into that creation.
Using these herbs is a more sustainable method of smudging, helping to reduce the impact to the endangerment of White Sage and Palo Santo.
The name comes from the Greek word “basilikon” which means king/royal. It’s origins however are most likely from India, where it was associated with the gods Vishnu and Krishna. It was considered to be a royal herb and was highly prized. Sprigs of it were at one time laid on the chests of the dead to protect them from evil in the next world and to offer them entrance to paradise. Basil was also seen as holy in Christian faith, as it was seen growing outside the tomb where Jesus Christ got resurrected. Other European lore sometimes claims that it is a symbol of Satan. Basil is still used in exorcism rituals in many parts of the world to expel demons.
Uses: Protection, Love, Astral Travel, Prosperity
The greek word for Bay is dhafni, and is derived from the story of Daphne, a nymph, who was changed into a bay laurel tree in order to protect herself from the god Apollo. Greeks also believed that inhaling the smoke of a bay leave induced visions. Bay Leafs were hung on doors as a sign of protection in early European times, and healers would wear crown of bay laurel during purification and healing rituals.
Uses: Purification, Protection, Dreamwork, Success, Money and Fortune.
Cedar is one of the traditional 9 woods Druids held sacred. They referred to it as The Tree of Life and as such, is a symbol of immortality. It was also sacred at the feast of Imbolc. Native Americans believed that ancestor spirits lived within the cedars and was used in calling for these good entities. It also acts in removing negative energies, banishing them and protection a space or one’s self.
Uses: Protection, Purification, Banishment, Calling for Spirits, solar magick.
Chamomile comes from the Greek meaning “ground apple” due to this herbs sweet scent. It has been used throughout history by many different groups, including Egyptians, Romans, Vikings, and Germans, for it’s magic properties. It is one of the Nine Sacred Herbs for Anglo-Saxons and was used in many protection spells.
Uses: Solar and Lunar Magick, Dreamwork, Purification, Protection, Good Luck, Love, Money.
Native to the Mediterranean and parts of India, Lavender was a commonly used herb. It was one of the holy herbs to ancient Greeks, Romans, and Egyptians, taking baths with this herb for its cleansing properties. Thrown into bonfires at MidSummer, it was an offer to the gods and goddesses for happiness and love. In Spain and Portugal, it was thrown into bonfires on St. John’s Day to ward of evil spirits.
Use: Purification, Protection, Divination, Love, Happiness, Peace, Good Fortune.
Mugwort is an herb modern pagans commonly associate with mysticism, divination, and dreamwork. Before this however, Mugwort has had well known reputation with it’s protective and purifying properties. It is connected to John the Baptist in Christian texts, and worn as a wreath, it repels negative spirits. In China, bunches of mugwort were hung in the home during the Dragon Festival to keep away evil spirits. The Ainus of Japan burn bunches to exorcise spirits of disease, who are thought to hate the odor. It is also one of the 9 sacred herbs for many ancient Native European Shamans and was used in purification ceremonies.
Uses: Purification, Protection, Divination, Dreamwork.
Pine is an intense cleansing herb, having the ability to banish negative energies. It is a history of being used in exorcisms, purging the self of any and all unwanted spirits. Since then, it has been more commonly used in protective and purification spells. Like all pines, it is good for attractive wealth and positive fortune.
Uses: Protection, Purification, Banishment, Money Spells, Solar Magick.
Native to the Mediterranean, Rosemary is an important old world herb, holding sacred value in many religions. It was used in many death purification rites, being an herb in the embalming process for Egyptians and burned in remembrance at Christian funerals. It also connects to loving energies, being an Herb of the Greek goddess Aphrodite and the Virgin Mary. Rosemary was given by Celts at the festival of Yule, as gifts for positivity in the new year. It is also used in improving memory and can help in dreamwork.
Uses: Protection, purification, memory, love, good fortune.
Thyme was thought of very highly by the Greeks who used it in rituals of all kinds. They would burn it as an incense for cleansing, and was drunk by warriors to increase their courage in battle. Romans carried this practice to their soldiers, who would soak in baths of Thyme sprigs to strengthen their bravery. Thyme comes from the Greek word “to fumigate” and was used in cleansing magick. It’s especially popular during spring celebrations to clear out old energy.
Uses: Protection, Purification, Bravery/Strength, Attracts Faeries.
***NOTE***These herbs are grown/found in North America. There are other herbs that also acts as smudging tools to cleanse, and you should refer to looking into the native plants of your region to learn which ones those are.